Stripping down a people carrier on the A406 at midnight and the trauma of dealing with an e-bay seller…

Stripping down a people carrier on the A406 at midnight and the trauma of dealing with an e-bay seller…

After all the adventures last week, a period of comparative calm was in order. Apart from Tuesday night. Alex does not finish work until 8pm on a Tuesday and we’d decided to meet up afterwards and get something to eat. Pretty normal as things go, apart from the restaurant we were in being a little “quirky” and having one half of a Fiat 500 stuck to the wall. Quite. As you’ve probably gathered by now, it’s an Italian!

After an extremely pleasant couple of hours it was time to head for home. We said goodnight and when checking the departure boards at the station, it became apparent that I’d missed my last train. Not by a couple of minutes, but by a good twenty. I would have been pretty miffed if it had been by a couple, but 20 or so does not seem so bad. I do wonder, though, how a station in zone 5 of London’s transport system can have its last City bound service leave at 23:20ish? Out where I live in Zone 6 trains still run into London until well after midnight.

Anyway, this IS London and there is always a solution. I popped into the mini-cab office which was on the station concourse (clever, very clever) and organised a run home. I tell the driver where we are going and in his best English he hands me his sat-nav and motions for me to enter my postcode. It was a bit of a lump and I had to put my phone on my knee to hold and operate this wannabe house-brick. For reasons which are not and will probably never be clear to me, he decided to try some slalom on the A406. Bear in mind, it is around a quarter to midnight and there is nothing on the roads. We could have quite happily remained in the same lane and gone on at a steady pace, but this guy had other ideas. So, the net result is, my phone goes flying to lord knows where because my hands are full of HIS sat-nav device. A quick look round in the dark did not reveal its whereabouts, so he finds a safe place and pulls over. We have a good search and still can’t locate it, so he calls my phone from his. I don’t have a particularly loud ringtone and it does start off rather quietly. Its also only 15s long. But, we can hear it, after about the 4th attempt. It’s just everywhere. I kid you not, dear reader, it was impossible to clearly define where the sound was coming from. We’ve had the seats all but removed, searched all the pockets and shrapnel bins that make up the centre console in this people mover, but we can’t pinpoint where the noise is coming from.

So, we kill the interior lights. Maybe we’ll see the glow when it rings. Oh. It must have landed face-down. I’ve been applying some thought to the events leading up to the search. There is a suspicious looking hole at the bottom of the centre column with a plug-in connector socket recessed in. It looked as though there should have been a cover over it as it was at the base of the rise that (It transpires that it is the interface point for one of the hand-held diagnostic tools that mechanics use) held the gear-stick, one or two plastic pods and a few controls. It does not seem likely that the phone went into the space as it was quite small and it would have needed the accuracy, trajectory and power of an Eric Bristow throw to get the phone in the hole. But as all other possible ideas had come to nothing, improbable as it was, the phone HAD to be in there. Now, I’ve got relatively small hands for someone of my stamp, but I can’t get past the opening – there are the mechanical elements of the base of the gear shift to get past/around plus the connector – there is no way the phone could have found a path through, was there?

I know my readers have more than a modicum of intelligence, so I won’t bore you all with the details, but that is how I came to be stripping down the centre column of a people carrier, aside the A406 in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Life has been anything but dull since I met Alex! The phone is none the worse for the ordeal and no, he didn’t get a tip!

Right then – consumer hats on!

I think the ability to be able to browse items and place orders on-line is great. Especially when one is looking for things that are not generally available on the average high-street. So, quite recently, I found myself looking for a particular item and the only place I could find such at a reasonable cost was on e-bay. Now, I’ve had an “account” with them since 2005, up until this recent purchase had made a total of 5 and the last was in 2007. A frequent visitor I am not. But this item claimed to be one of half a dozen in stock, new and boxed, delivery to me for the following Wednesday. As the nearest equivalent I could find outside of e-bay was at least £100 more, I took a punt.

Well, it arrived on the day. It wasn’t damaged. Once integrated, it worked with everything else. In short, it did what I expected of it. A few days later I get an e-mail asking me to “leave feedback”. So, breaking with tradition, I do. As I remember it, there are 3 options – Positive, Neutral and Negative. I’ve done my bit and the supplier has done his. No dramas in either direction, so I give the middle of the three, leave a couple of notes and forget about it. About a week later, I get an e-mail from the company in question asking what they could do to make “my experience a more positive one”. This is studiously ignored.

After another week, I get another e-mail asking me to phone them. On an 0870 number. More chance of a taxi to the moon than that happening! One week on and they are asking for a number to contact me on. Better, but by this time curiosity is getting the better of me and I respond with my office number. A further week on, I get a call, apparently my e-mail had only just arrived. There has been a pattern; e-mails always arrived from them on a Friday afternoon post 3pm. And so did the call, but I don’t mention it. I listen to what the guy has to say and then I counter with my view on the “experience” as he will insist on calling our transaction. The call completes but he’s not altered my perception. Then I get an e-mail, the body of which is;

“Thank you for your valuable time today and I hope that you will re-consider the feedback you left for us as it goes against our good reputation. For an example of what Ebay consider to be grounds for leaving neutral feedback:

– Poor communication. If a seller doesn’t respond to any of your emails, that’s poor communication.

– False advertising. If the product doesn’t look as good as in the photo, that’s false advertising. If the color is different than in the photo, that’s false advertising also. If the product looks different than in the photo, leave neutral feedback.

– Delayed shipping. If the seller says you should receive the product in 1 week and you get it a month later, leave neutral feedback.

I hope that even if you will not consider changing the feedback you left for us that you will leave positive feedback for the next purchase you make on Ebay.

If there is anything I can do to help please just let me know.

Kind regards,”

I’m now starting to get just a little wound up, so after due consideration, I respond thus:

“Your e-mail and our conversation refer.

For absolute clarity, my position on feedback is this;

You entered into a contract to supply the item, as described by a given date. My part of the deal was to pay in full. We both met our obligations. Had you failed in some way, you would have been given negative, detailed feedback. Had you exceeded in some manner (i.e. it arrived damaged/DoA and you arranged a swift swap-out with no fuss) you’d have been awarded a positive response with glowing feedback. As it is, you (and I) met the requirements – no less and no more; therefore it is a neutral experience for both parties.

I don’t get all over-enthused when I buy a box of tissues from Boots and buying from you is no different”.

” I hope that even if you will not consider changing the feedback you left for us that you will leave positive feedback for the next purchase you make on Ebay.”

“I find the above remark to be quite inflammatory. You have no automatic right to anything other than an average score, as clearly detailed above. If you have an issue with the limited range of options the auction service offers with its feedback system, perhaps you would be better served raising the matter with them, rather than trying to pressure your customers into helping you promote your business?

As it so happens, I have recommended the item to other people who have a similar need to my own and I’ve sent them the link to the relevant page. I know that one person has purchased as I’ve seen the item in his studio. In light of your remarks, I am now regretting this decision. You will not, I am sure, be surprised to learn that I will not be purchasing any items from you or recommending you in the future.

I trust this clarifies my position.

Yours faithfully”

Which garnered this reply:

“Thank you for your e-mail.

My comment was not intended to come across as inflammatory, I merely sought to highlight the way that eBay works and hoped to help with any future purchases, I apologise if you felt I was being contrary and hoping to draw a response from you.
I am saddened that this interaction would discourage you from future purchases with us as I do not feel that I have done anything wrong and hoped that the service we have provided would encourage a repeat business.
Neutral feedback unfortunately (according to eBay, which was the platform used) is not an average score rather a below average score, used to highlight short-fallings in either service or a delay in shipping as I highlighted in the previous email. As we failed in neither service nor delivery we hope to garner a Positive from all of our customers as Neutral and Negative go against our record as a seller and this is something we and all other sellers on eBay hope to avoid.
I hope that this clarifies my position and I wish you a nice weekend.
Kind regards,”

I have not responded further.

Here’s the thing – the supplier didn’t have to touch the box – it came from a warehouse in Germany directly to me. At least if I buy a box of tissues in Boots I know that they have been placed on a shelf and sold by staff at the branch, but with this lot, they probably only pressed a button or two and forgot about it. I did consider re-visiting e-bay and downgrading my feedback, but a wave of CBAitis washed over me. Don’t think I’ll be using e-bay again though.

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